No Plan To Impeach Jonathan - Rep
In this interview, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions, Hon. Uzo Azubuike, dismisses allegations of an ongoing plan to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He also speaks on other issues. Excerpts:
There are insinuations that the Unity Forum to which you belong wants to effect a leadership change in the House of Representatives and also impeach President Goodluck Jonathan. How true is this?
The rumoured attempt to effect a change in the leadership of the House of Representatives is one of the most ridiculous rumours one can think of. Before we went on recess, we saw a certain drift in Peoples Democratic Party that was affecting the coherence of the party in the House. We now floated an association that we called the PDP Patriots and we took it upon ourselves to ensure sustained support for the PDP, for President Goodluck Jonathan, and for the programmes of the party that has formed government while at the same time work towards ensuring peace and stability in the House of Representatives.
We are aware that the leadership we have in the House today was elected voluntarily and that members of the House are satisfied with the leadership of Aminu Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha, with Mulikat Akande as the Leader of the House.
Why did you choose to follow this path?
We saw the need to ensure that there is stability in the House and stability in the government of the federation and there cannot be stability in the government of the federation if it does not enjoy the support of the National Assembly especially the House of Representatives.
The government of the federation cannot enjoy the support of the House if there is no respect for the House, so we floated the PDP Patriots. Our objective was to build synergy within the PDP which we proudly belong to and happily, we in the House of Representatives will be speaking with one voice and that we have a ready forum for consultation by the leadership of the nation under President Goodluck Jonathan. That was the objective.
How did the PDP Patriots change into the Unity Forum which now includes non-PDP members?
While we were on recess, there was a problem in the PDP arising from the last mini convention of the party and some people now said they have formed a new PDP and we felt that if there is a disagreement within the party, it should not be brought into the chambers of the National Assembly. Party issues are not supposed to reflect in the House. We felt that if there are contentions within the party, it should be resolved at the party level and that the National Assembly should remain one. That was why when this other dimension came that the PDP itself was split outside, we came up with the Unity Forum. Under the Unity Forum, we have three beliefs. The Unity Forum is now wider than the PDP, but it was still a transformation of the Patriots. Its formation became necessary when we realised that there are other groups too, working on their own. We felt that if what we all want to achieve is harmony, then we have to bring all the groups together. So, we then brought all those groups together.
But that unity has attracted the interests of other people who are not in the PDP and we have come up with three tenets. One is to mobilise support for the government and programmes of President Jonathan; our duty is to ensure that his policies get the support of the House of Representatives.
Secondly, we wanted to mobilise support for the leadership of Tambuwal, Ihedioha and Akande, and thirdly, to mobilise support for the Bamanga Tukur-led PDP in Nigeria. Our approach is passive; to discourage members who have different views from playing it out on the floor. We analysed the developments in the PDP and came to the conclusion that the PDP has not lost any member of the House of Reps; that the even those who say they are ‘New PDP’ are still in the PDP. So, if they are still in the PDP, then we still have one PDP leadership under Akande. When people outside resolve who is the Chairman, he becomes the Chairman of PDP and that will be PDP, and that if, we are still in the PDP, we have a duty to always support the programmes of President Jonathan as the leader of the PDP.
Does your mobilisation of support for the Executive include a plot to change the leadership of the House?
That is the belief of people who don’t really understand the workings of the House. What we believe in is unity and stability. What we want to achieve is stability in the Executive and stability in the legislature. People create imaginary quarrels between the leadership of the House and the party executive. People create imaginary quarrels between the House of Representatives and the Executive. But these are only in people’s imagination. In the normal discharge of duties of the legislature, there are bound to be disagreements between the arms. The same applies to the judiciary. That is why if you take an executive action to the judiciary, the judiciary can rule against it. You can also bring a government policy to the legislature and the lawmakers will say no. it doesn’t show that they are quarrelling because the Constitution has enabled each of the arms to serve as checks and balances in the best interest of Nigerians.
If people disagree on principles. It does not mean that they are enemies. So, there is no quarrel to the best of our knowledge, between the leadership of the House and the leadership of Executive that will warrant anybody to either change the leadership of the House or leadership of the executive. All we have done is to provide support, because we’ve come to realise that some of the actions of the House that are not understood by the Executive was largely because of the lack of coherence among members of the PDP in the House on the floor. The leadership of the House is bound by majority opinion and if a matter that borders for instance, on government policy is before the House and members of the PDP are indifferent and you have a majority shouting nay, whoever is presiding is bound to rule nay, and people outside will look at it as the pronouncement of the presiding officer.
The way the House is, if the presiding officer fails to rule according to the dictates of the majority, his impeachment needs no protocols. So, we have come to realise that it is our duty to protect the leadership by ensuring that we always have the number, we are vocal and visible to direct opinion of the House towards the policies and programmes of the government we believe in. That is what has happened.
So, our coming together to support the executive is by no means in conflict with our position to preserve the House leadership. You would have observed that on the day that there was fracas in the chambers, immediately after that fracas, a strong member of this group – the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Customs, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, a committed supporter of President Goodluck Jonathan, was the one who moved the motion for a Vote of Confidence in Tambuwal, the same day and the House carried it! Not a single person said nay. You would have observed that the same day that Baraje came and we felt that it was not proper for him to come and address us from his wing, because there is no ‘New PDP’ registered by INEC, you would have observed that immediately after the noise, as soon as the Speaker, Tambuwal rose up to speak, the whole House immediately calmed down and everybody listened to him with rapt attention.
How do you intend to resolve the dispute with the New PDP?
We believe that the resolution is beyond our group. The conflict is about who takes the soul of the PDP and a casual look at it will tell you that as we are in a democracy, even if there was any basis for Baraje to stand up and say he is Chairman, who elected him?
How many members do we have in the PDP?
We have more than 200 members of the PDP in the House. So, even if they have 57, it means they are still an absolute minority of PDP in the House and therefore, they cannot have the soul of the PDP.
What is happening is that the minority parties actually helped to raise the noise level because it favours them and I assure you that they are the ones who peddle this propaganda of attempts to impeach the President.
Nobody can talk about impeaching President Jonathan on the floor of the House. While we are here till 2015, we can assure Nigerians that no impeachment agenda against Speaker Tambuwal or President Jonathan will see the light of day.